Each holiday season brings a festive mob scene at the Portland Farmers Market. Shoppers scramble, juggling swollen gourds, golden pears, and tart cranberries. Roots protrude from canvas bags like crazy hallucinations: contorted salsify, fuchsia carrots, and parsnips so big you could joust with them. Amid the annual chaos, local cookbook author and Thanksgiving specialist Diane Morgan found inspiration for the holiday table—and for Roots, her recently released tome that delves deep into the underworld of tubers, rhizomes, and corms.
Morgan spent the better part of two years researching taproots, quizzing knowledgeable farmers on crosne—a tiny tuber pronounced “crone”—and tapping local Portland chefs for their secret daikon kimchi recipes. And while her 400-page book draws from global traditions that range from South America to Southeast Asia, most of the roots flourish in the fertile soils of Oregon.
Roots, Morgan believes, are the unsung heroes of the Thanksgiving side dish, quilted under marshmallows or tangled with creamed spinach. She makes a strong case for putting them front and center, employing them in a purée of celery root with sweet Anjou pears for an upgrade on the usual mashed potatoes, or sautéed in a farro salad with pearl onions and grapes for a healthy, toothsome alternative to classic stuffing. As you lay the plans for your November feasting, turn your attention to Oregon’s underground bounty, and let some new traditions of your own take root.